This escorted tour of Loire Valley Chateaux, one of the most delightful day excursions from Paris, takes you to visit two of the most legendary chateaux of France. It also introduces you to the beautiful Loire Valley (often called the Garden of France), and leads you into the realms of some of the most colorful personalities of French history. It further gives you the opportunity to sample the wine and cuisine of one of the country’s most renowned regions.
During your drive to the Loire Valley, we will explain the transition from feudal fortress castles to luxurious residential chateaux that were inspired by the architecture of the Italian renaissance. The chateaux that we propose to visit are among the latter group. In the event you would like to see an example of each, both feudal and renaissance, we suggest seeing the fortress at Langeais instead of Chambord.
A two hour drive from Paris takes you past Blois, to the magnificent Chateau de Chambord, the personal creation of François I, using designs possibly drawn by Leonardo da Vinci. In scale, this is the most grandiose of the Loire chateaux and the stunning first view of it often remains burned indelibly in the eye of the visitor. This is one of the first chateaux to reflect the influences of the Italian renaissance in French architecture, and is also one of the first to be built primarily for the pleasure of its use, instead of defense.
The Chateau in Chenonceaux could hardly offer more of a contrast: although built at virtually the same time as Chambord, in the early 16th century, there is a feminine refinement in the lines of Chenonceau that reflects the roles in its creation of Catherine Briçonnet, the wife of its builder, and Catherine de Medici, who later transformed it. Chenonceau was also the home of Henri II and Diane de Poitiers, whose lifelong affair colors and suffuses its history. Diane’s Italian garden and Catherine de Medici’s park are equally attractive highlights of this tour.
To relax between visiting these two chateaux, this tour offers the chance to lunch at delightful country inns, or at any of numerous Michelin single and double starred restaurants, and one of our favorite dining establishments in all of France, located in Chenonceaux itself. The central Loire region offers a wealth of choices for superb regional cuisine.
Our tour of Loire Valley chateaux concludes at the end of our visit of Chenonceau with a two and one half hour drive back to Paris.